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The Sea: LS Lowry and Maggi Hambling

A new exhibition of the sea brings together
two of Britain’s most renowned artists

The Sea: LS Lowry and Maggi Hambling
The Lowry, Salford Quays
Sat 17 October 2009 – Sun 31January 2010
Private View: Fri 16 October 2009

“It’s the battle of life – the turbulence of the sea – and life’s pretty turbulent, isn’t it?”

LS Lowry

“But this raging beast [the North Sea] is as demanding as a lover and I am still challenged and seduced”
Maggi Hambling

Maggi Hambling, one of Britain's most distinguished contemporary artists, will show her latest, extremely powerful paintings of the North Sea alongside Lowry's own deeply compelling seascapes. This major exhibition includes previously unseen, large scale works by Hambling and a new sculpture in bronze alongside a selection of Lowry’s own sea paintings and drawings.

Michael Simpson, The Lowry’s Head of Visual Arts & Engagement, comments: “Both artists share a profound relationship with the sea and a deep commitment to painting the ocean. The sea absorbed and thrilled Lowry. For him the turbulence of the sea represented the battle of life. In contrast, Hambling’s work often pitches the viewer into the middle of churning, turbulent seas. Both Lowry’s and Hambling’s sea paintings pack a tremendous punch, in dramatically different ways.”

Seascapes are perhaps the most surprising element of LS Lowry’s work for those familiar simply with his industrial scenes. Yet the sea was an important metaphor for Lowry – recently described by The Guardian as ‘the greatest seascape painter of the 20th century’; Maggi Hambling is as absorbed and excited by the sea as her predecessor.

In 2003 Scallop, the artist’s controversial sculpture to celebrate Benjamin Britten was unveiled on Aldeburgh beach, Suffolk. In the pause between making the maquette and beginning work on the actual piece, Hambling began her now famous series of North Sea Paintings. The restless movement of the sea continues to obsess the artist and has never been so convincingly or physically expressed as in these latest works. The action and energy of the paint directly challenge the viewer.

Maggi Hambling observes, “The surprise of Lowry’s sea-paintings is that they are unpeopled. He achieves a stark clarity which speaks directly to us. He can create the undercurrents as if by magic, with great economy of mark and minimal gesture. The results are hypnotic and contemporary.

His paintings are in complete contrast to my recent work with the sea. As a child, I would walk a short way into the sea, stand still and talk to it. Now I listen. The huge power is awe-inspiring and the North Sea, often like a raging beast, is fast consuming the land. As I get older, I identify with the shifting shingle, the sea, like time, enforcing an inevitable erosion.”

Similarly LS Lowry himself said “I am very fond of the sea; how wonderful it is, yet how terrible it is. But I often think…what if it suddenly changed its mind and didn’t turn the tide? And came straight on? If it didn’t stop and came on and on and on and on. That would be the end of it all.”

Hambling adds, “Early each morning I draw the sea, much as a pianist practices scales, or a footballer limbers up. Back in the studio, in oil paint on canvas, I try to make the waves rise in their curves of the moon, become almost solid for a second, then crash, shatter and dissolve. The sound and speed of their action is what I’m trying to paint. For Lowry it is the quiet calm.”

The exhibition will be accompanied by a specially commissioned new publication featuring words and images by Maggi Hambling.

Posted on Thursday, 24 September 2009 under News Galleries News


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